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How to conduct an environmental exposure assessment for Veterans

How to conduct an environmental exposure assessment for Veterans

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How to conduct an environmental exposure assessment for Veterans

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  1. How to conduct an environmental exposure assessment for Veterans Caring for Veterans with Post-Deployment Health Concerns: Past, Present and Future Ron Teichman, MD, MPH, FACP, FACOEM Associate Director – Clinical, Education and Risk Communication War Related Illness and Injury Study Center VA New Jersey Health Care System – East Orange, NJ

  2. How to conduct an environmental exposure assessment for Veterans • Why? • ¼ Million Service Members with concerns (at least) • Over 50% not receiving care from the VA • Primary Prevention

  3. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Introduction - Display empathy and care for the Veteran to establish trust and credibility. Tell the Veteran upfront that you will be honest - explaining what you do and don't know. Listen actively and patiently. Most Veterans can tell dissembling from across the room.

  4. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Explanation of plan - Describing how you'll conduct the assessment gives the Veteran some "control" and makes them a partner in the assessment. Think about the fact that this is a Veteran, trained to listen to authority, but may feel like they have had that trust violated.

  5. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Basic toxicology - Explain the need for a route of exposure and for a temporal relationship between exposure and effect. Explaining this in the generic sense may make discussions of specific exposures much easier for the Veteran to understand.

  6. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Exposure history pre-enlistment/pre-deployment - Ask about location of birth, residencies, environment, schooling, neighborhood exposures, hobbies, travel, summer activities, and all jobs, etc. You know all this already.

  7. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Exposure history of deployment(s) - This is what a Veteran came to talk about. Include: time, duration and location of deployment(s); In area of hostilities?; Under fire and/or fired weapon?; Chemical alarms?; Antidote tablets?; Prophylactic medicines?;

  8. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Exposure history of deployment(s) - Traumatic brain injury? (not covered in today’s presentation, but very important); Food and drink?; Immunizations and reactions to them?; Pesticide use – approved, unapproved, flea collars?; Illness while in theater?;

  9. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Exposure history of deployment(s) – Sanitation during deployment? Illness while in theater?; Chemical exposures?; Exposure to air pollution – general or a specific factory, e.g., cement?; Burn pits?; Bugs, including flies?; Sand and sandstorms?

  10. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Exposure history of deployment(s) – There is a growing list of specific instances of possible toxic exposure. Knowing the specifics of where the Veteran was and when they were there can make a huge difference in whether you can reassure them or not. Duration, extent and immediate effects are critical to ascertain.

  11. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Exposure history post-deployment - Same issues as in pre-deployment exposure history. Ask about multiple deployments. Include treatments for conditions which began post-deployment.

  12. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Exposure history post-separation - Again ask about residencies, hobbies, travel, employment, etc. Many Veterans become government contractors with the same types of exposures as when they were active duty.

  13. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Other exposures - Asking about anything you may have missed reinforces that the Veteran is a partner in the process and not just a passive participant.

  14. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Specific exposure concerns - An important Risk Communication principle is to identify their concerns and provide information that addresses those concerns. Ranking the degree of concern can be helpful. The goal is to demonstrate that you were listening and that the evaluation is a dialogue. Risk communication is a two-way street, it is not risk speaking.

  15. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Education and risk communication • Honest information from a knowledgeable and credible source is the key to the assessment. • Risk communication must be integrated throughout the evaluation.

  16. Environmental Exposure Assessment Step by Step “How To” • Education and risk communication –2 • Don't talk down to the Veteran. • Remember that risk perception is not misperception, but a different perception. • Comparisons can be helpful but be careful. • Make sure you listen to what is being said, verbally and otherwise, including underlying concerns.

  17. Thank you